Zaporizhzhia Gazette: Notes on an Unfolding Nuclear Crisis

At the UN Security Council meeting two days ago, Mariano Grossi presented 5 principles to keep Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant- ZNPP- safe during the coming Ukraine counteroffensive.  The Ukrainian army is expected to cross the Dnieper River and head for Mariupol, with ZNPP directly in its path.  Russia controls the area around the plant, and has already evacuated many of the inhabitants.  Others have received iodide tablets in case of a nuclear accident, to protect their vulnerable thyroid glands.

Mr. Grossi declared that his 5 principles of safety had been accepted by Russia and Ukraine.  In fact, they were not.

Ukraine and Russia do not approve IAEA protection plan for ZNPP-

Ukrainska Pravda  Ukraine and Russia do not approve IAEA protection plan for ZNPP (

Wed, May 31, 2023 at 6:28 AM PDT

Russia has not agreed to abide by the five principles laid out on Tuesday by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, to protect the Russian-occupied ZNPP. Ukraine, in turn, suggested adding two more points.  The IAEA’s five principles included a ban on attacks on or from nuclear power plants, as well as a ban on deploying heavy weapons such as multiple launcher rocket systems, artillery systems and munitions, as well as tanks or military personnel on the plant’s premises.  The head of the IAEA also called for keeping the power plant accessible and secure, and for all of its major systems to be protected from any attacks or acts of sabotage…

While Russia has said it would do everything it could to protect the power plant it has occupied for more than a year, it has not made a clear commitment to comply with Grossi’s five principles.   “Mr. Grossi’s proposals to ensure the safety of the Zaporizhzhia NPP are consistent with the measures we have been implementing for a long time,” said Vasily Nebenzya, the Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations.  Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Serhii Kyslytsia stated that the demand for complete demilitarisation and liberation of the station should be added to these principles.

Alex Rossi of Eyewitness was able to secure rare interviews with two workers at ZNPP:

…And the warnings they gave of what could happen should send a cold chill around the world.

The interviews were conducted on the condition of anonymity and at great personal risk to them. They told us that if they were caught, they could be tortured, imprisoned, or worse. They know the dangers but still wanted to be heard.

Neither of the technicians knew that we were talking to the other. But their testimony of the possibility of a major nuclear catastrophe was worryingly familiar. One of the men, who we will call Serhii, warned the consequences could cause devastation across much of Europe, Russia and the Mediterranean.  “The level of radioactive pollution, and most importantly the area of contamination, will be thousands of square kilometres of land and sea… it would be much, much worse than Fukushima and worse than Chernobyl.”….

The back-up generators we were told are also not being properly maintained, the other man, Mykola, told us that this was because of staff shortages.   He says that before the war there were 11,000 staff at the plant and now there may be as few as 3,500.   “There is the same deficit of workers for repairs who can actually do the servicing and fix problems. The quality of the workers is lower because the qualified staff left. So generally the situation here is deteriorating.”…

The power station has been under occupation now for 15 months and the technicians have told us that in the last few weeks the level of military activity has increased dramatically.    They’ve witnessed Russian forces, moving more armour, more ammunition and more guns into place as they fortify their positions.   Serhii says that he thinks it’s because they know the nuclear plant is safe from Ukrainian strikes.   “Ukrainian armed forces will not shell the station. That’s why they are multiplying the numbers of troops and vehicles here because if they did it in another place they would definitely get shelled by the armed forces of Ukraine.    “The thing is, one month and half ago there were two times less troops on the power station and now there are two times more which means they are definitely preparing for the counteroffensive.”

It is hard to know what is exactly going on inside, but we understand technicians are routinely intimidated to keep them silent – effectively held as hostages.   Mykola told us it’s a frightening place to work, but he has no choice.    “Everyone has their own story. And I think the most important thing is not to get into their hands because it’s unlikely you will get out and still be the human you were when you went in.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency is carrying out inspections, but it continues to express grave concerns about the nuclear plant and is calling for the area to be demilitarised immediately.    But there is no sign that will happen. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.